The demise of the coup, it seems, has been greatly exaggerated. The year began with the February 1 coup in Myanmar, which saw the termination of the country’s democratization process. Two months later, elements of the Nigerien Air Force under the command of Captain Sani Saley Gourouza were thwarted in their bid to unseat President Mahamadou Issoufou. The same month saw an alleged ambiguous plot against King Abdullah II of Jordan uncovered, implicating his half-brother Prince Hussein and his security detail. Putschists in Mali proved more successful in May, when forces under Assimi Goita ousted the interim government of Bah Ndaw, who himself had come to power via a coup last August. Following the death of President Idriss Déby, Chad saw the military usurp the succession process. The parliament was dissolved and a Transitional Military Council was announced. Major General Mahamat Déby Itno would assume his father’s place as the president. The recent run of coups in the Sahel were joined in September by the Guinean military’s removal of Alpha Condé on September 5 and a failed coup against the transitional government in Sudan on September 21.
Conde’s political entrenchment did not do much to boost his popularity. Following his constitutional push for a third term (the constitution allowed for two five-year terms prior to the change) in March 2020, protests erupted against the government and were met with force by security forces. The protests continued through his reelection in October 2020 , facing violent backlash, and continued well into 2021. Gunfire erupted around the Presidential Palace on the morning of September 5 as the coupists, led by Special Forces Commander Mamady Doumbouya, overwhelmed government forces and detained Conde, transferring him to a military compound.
The coupists soon took to social media to reveal that Conde was unharmed and to announce their intentions to the world. They cited the public’s grievances with the president, including allegations of corruption, financial mismanagement, and democratic erosion, and claimed that they would establish a transitional government with a new drafted constitution. They later clarified that Doumbouya would lead the transition but with a civilian cabinet at his side. International actors have largely condemned the coup and demanded an adherence to the now-suspended constitution. Thus far, it seems that the new junta has not faced significant domestic backlash but the country’s trajectory continues to appear uncertain.
This latest event saw soldiers attempt to seize the state’s official media building and gain access to television and radio stations around 3 am on Tuesday morning. A period of uncertainty quickly followed as Mohammed al-Faki Suleiman immediately took to social media and called on all Sudanese citizens to rise up and defend the transition. Soon after the announcement, pro-government tanks rolled into Khartoum and the attempt fell apart.
According to the government’s narrative, the plot was well-formulated beforehand and included elements of the armed forces stationed across the country such as in Shagara (south of Khartoum) and Wadi Sidna and Omdurman. Government statements placed Lt. Gen Abdul Baqi Al Hassan Othman, a commander from Omdurman, as the coup’s leader. Othman and his allied troops were arrested. They remain in custody and are allegedly facing interrogation. The joint civil-military transitional government reiterated its commitment to overseeing the country’s transition to free and fair elections set for next year. This event comes on the back of another suspected plot earlier in September, which saw reports circulate around social media claiming that the government uncovered a plot by army officers. The Sudanese army denied this claim, however.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti), a member of the transitional government, has stated that civilians’ lack of progress on economic fronts led to the coup, a sentiment shared by al-Burhan during their address to a military graduation. The military’s presence in the transitional government has been a point of criticism for many observers, particularly as the arrangement appears to weaken by the day. It is unclear whether this latest coup attempt will continue to escalate tensions in the government and jeopardize the transition.
While researchers and observers have increasingly pointed to the decline of coups, recent events this year have revitalized interest in putsches, mutinies, and similar contentious behaviors. This year’s coup events range across a host of different contexts. The Myanmar coup and failed Sudanese attempt occurred amid ongoing democratic transitions, with the former effectively ending the process. In Mali and Chad, the coup events occurred amid authoritarian contexts and the leadership changes continued to maintain the status quo. Conversely, in Guinea and Somalia (though the latter did not constitute a coup), the events occurred amid ongoing attempts of executive aggrandizement. Though the year is yet to conclude, 2021 shows that coups are not altogether relics of the past.
Welcome to the Arrested Dictatorship blog. Posts on recent events are periodically updated as more information becomes available. It is currently edited by Jonathan Powell and Salah Ben Hammou at the University of Central Florida.
Decolonizing Coup Data, Salah Ben Hammou
Coups and Democracy, J Powell & Mwita Chacha
Coups & Clickbait, J Powell
Iraq 1936, Salah Ben Hammou
Failed Coup...Successful Transition? Salah Ben Hammou & J Powell